Building a culture of student voice in schools through collaboration

Model Nr.: 
Developed by: 
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, (NCCA) Ireland
Purpose of the material: 
  • Enhance student voice in post-primary schools in Ireland
  • Provide opportunities to deepen capacity and commitment of teachers to working in partnerships with students
  • Provide opportunities to deepen capacity and commitment of system leaders to support the development of a culture of student voice in and between schools

In this model participants are enabled to reflect on their understanding of and commitment to student voice. They identify their respective starting points, appropriate to their context, and are supported in moving towards an enhanced culture of student voice. This model supports the different stakeholders to work in partnership, mindful of their individual and collective roles in this area.


The Education Act (1998) in Ireland requires that all schools put in place a Student Council. In an Irish context to date, this is where student voice has largely resided. This project aims to develop models of partnership where all children can have a greater voice in learning and school life, moving beyond the representative structure pf the Student Council.

The new model of Junior Cycle education, launched in 2012, provides multiple opportunities for young people to exercise their voice in learning and assessment-through a greater emphasis on key skills, active learning methodologies and formative assessment practices.

This model of collaborative learning applies at policy, school and classroom level and recognises the complex nature of educational change. This model aims to enhance student voice by developing relationships among teachers, students and policy-makers based on openness, trust, and support where all participants having genuine ownership and engagement with the change process.

One of the key features of this approach is an attempt to focus not just on the ‘what’ of student voice but also on the ‘how’ of the implementation process. Hence, the aim is to develop student voice through a shift from top- down policy implementation to a more horizontal approach with a strong dimension of school collaboration. Developing enhanced student voice at policy, school and classroom level in this way is centred on a collaborative approach.

This more horizontal approach places schools at the centre of the learning journey and empowers teachers to take the Student Voice project forward in a way that was most useful/appropriate to their unique local context. 

Along with working in partnership with European colleagues, system level stakeholders work collaboratively with teachers, school leaders and students in a few schools

A central feature of all of our engagements with the key stakeholders was based on a culture of respect and collaboration.  This involved the following:

  • Time allocation of a minimum of two hour to up to  two-day events engagement
  •  Experiential learning modelling ‘authentic listening’ and associated methodologies designed to hear the voices and build the listening skills of those involved
  • Opportunities to link learning to the different educational realities of the stakeholders including how Student Voice can be facilitated in the different aspects of learning and assessment and school life.
  •  Opportunities to learn from and with colleagues and different partners in the education system

Opportunities to share practice with others beyond the setting of the project.


This material reflects only the author’s view; the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.